Birds of a Feather do not Always Lek Together: Genetic Diversity and Kinship Structure of Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus Urophasianus) in Alberta


Krista L. Bush, Cameron L. Aldridge, Jennifer E. Carpenter, Cynthia A. Paszkowski, Mark S. Boyce,  David W. Coltman


The Auk 127(2): 343-353; 2010


Endangered species are sensitive to the genetic effects of fragmentation, small population size, and inbreeding, so effective management requires a thorough understanding of their breeding systems and genetic diversity. The Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a lekking species that has declined by 66–92% during the past 35 years in Alberta. Our goals were to assess the genetic diversity of Greater Sage-Grouse in Alberta and to determine the degree of sex-specific relatedness within and among leks. Six hundred and four individuals sampled in 1998–2007 were genotyped at 13 microsatellite loci. Levels of genetic diversity were high, with the exception of one recently founded lek, and did not change over time. Overall, we did not observe isolation-bydistance
among leks, and most leks were not differentiated from one another, which suggests that gene flow occurs across the study area. Males and females exhibited similar patterns of isolation-by-distance, so dispersal was not sex-specific. Overall relatedness was close to zero for both sexes at the level of the province, lek, and year, which suggests that neither sex forms strong kin associations. However, we found relatedness within leks at the year level to be greater than zero, which indicates interannual variation. We also found no evidence that Greater Sage-Grouse follow the typical avian pattern of male philopatry. Although the species is endangered in Alberta and occurs in fragmented habitat, it has maintained genetic diversity and connectivity. Received 8 September 2008, accepted 22 September 2009.